Matthew at Thomas Ford has been restocking our genre collections with classics and rare finds. Among the latter is a book by A. A. Milne. Who now would guess that Milne was a great mystery fan? Most of us associate the once famous humorist with Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh. But Milne wasn't thinking of writing children's stories all the time. According to his introduction, he was reading mysteries, which he compared to beers. He rarely found one he did not like, and he wanted one with his own signature. So he wrote The Red House Mystery in 1922.
Milne did not try to reinvent the genre on his first try. Instead, he introduced Antony Gillingham, a bright young man who in The Red House Mystery happens upon a crime and thinks that solving it before the police would be smashing fun. Of course, the murder occurs at a country estate where Bill Beverly, one of Antony's close friends, has been a guest. They begin calling each other Holmes and Watson and start looking for clues. It is all great fun.
There are lots of classic mystery elements: a missing suspect, a case that seems open-and-shut to the police, maids to interview, a secret passage, missing keys, disguises, and pretty girls to impress. Milne introduces these pretty girls but then keeps them off-stage, perhaps available for sequels that did not follow. With insight and a bit of luck, Antony and Bill solve the crime and suggest they will be setting up shop to solve further mysteries. Alas, for the reader, they never did. The Red House Mystery is treat that leaves you wishing for more.
Milne, A. A. The Red House Mystery. Vintage Books, 2009. 211p. ISBN 9780099521273.